A man buys medicine in a pharmacy in Beirut, Lebanon, Oct. 13, 2020. Lebanon has been witnessing a steep shortage in medicines after news started to circulate about the Central Bank of Lebanon's plan to lift subsidies on medicines, among other products, amid shortage in foreign currency reserves in the country. (Xinhua/Bilal Jawich)
by Dana Halawi
BEIRUT, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- "We do not have this medicine," Mohamad Jaber, owner of Jaber Pharmacy in Lebanon, told a customer who buys medicines on a monthly basis from his pharmacy.
Jaber said the words have been the most frequent reply to his customers recently amid shortage of medicines in pharmacies all over the country.
"I feel very bad for my customers. But now all I can do is to divide my little stock among a small number of them, while seeing others searching other pharmacies all over Lebanon for their medical needs," he added.
Lebanon has been witnessing a steep shortage in medicines after news started to circulate about the Central Bank of Lebanon's plan to lift subsidies on medicines, among other products, amid shortage in foreign currency reserves in the country.
About 85 percent of the U.S. dollars needed by Lebanon's medicine importers are offered by the central bank at the exchange rate of 1,500 Lebanese pounds per one dollar, while they purchase the remaining 15 percent in the black market at 7,500 pounds per one dollar at least.
However, the central bank has announced that it only has small reserves worth about 1.8 billion dollars to support the import of medicines and others, prompting a rush on medicines among the wealthy citizens who fear higher prices when subsidies are lifted.
Joe Salloum, owner of Santa Maria Pharmacy, said the current shortage in medicines could also be caused by importers' deliberate hoarding of their products in order to sell them at higher prices when subsidies are lifted by the central bank.
"Medicines' imports dropped by only 10 percent which means that importers must still be able to supply pharmacies with a fair amount of medicines; but this is not the case today," Salloum noted.
Karim Gebara, head of the Syndicate of Medicines Importers in Lebanon, declined to comment on the issue but was quoted by local media as saying importers have been supplying pharmacies with bigger quantities.
However, caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan has said some importers are indeed storing medicines, vowing necessary measures to stop such practices. Enditem